Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Dave Sim Is Joe DiMaggio

Cerebus #74 (May 1985)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Comic Art Fans, 30 July 2009)
Comic artists can be easily compared to baseball players. Just like in baseball, where you need the five "tools" to be a good player (power, average, baserrunning, fielding, throwing), in the comics field many talents are required if you want to become a complete artist. For instance, Mark Bagley is an artist very good at hitting frequently, and frequently reaching base - some kind of Ichiro Suzuki, I would say. The Image guys of the early 90's all had power, like Sammy Sosa, or McGwire: but definetely did lack of consistency, or fielding abilities (tipically, the ability of tying up decent storylines), and I could add that, just like Sosa and BigMac, maybe their power was a little bit "inflated" - not by medicals, but by market. Fielding was perfect during Byrne's tenure of Fantastic Four, and Byrne throws towards home base were always powerful and accurate: he always got what he wanted, aiming for the target (silver age grandeur) and reaching for it. At the same time, maybe he was lacking for power, since we had to wait for Terminus before he was able to create "some" new villain: just consider for comparision that McFarlane shaped Venom two months after taking control of Amazing Spiderman. In the history departement, Kirby was Babe Ruth (the greatest hitter, specialized player, reshaped the game). Stan Lee was Ty Cobb (incredible numbers, wicked competitor, not everything he did was appreciated by other players). John Romita Sr. was Lou Gehrig (always present, always delivered).

Dave Sim is one of the greatest artists, one of the greatest writers, and has showed to have the greatest consistency (27 years of consistency, no less): he is the ultimate and prototypical five-tools player. He expressed during his tenure on Cerebus even some unusual but very important side talents. For instance, he is a great letterer (an undervalued accomplishment, because lettering allows the artist to really have COMPLETE control over the page). He is a great editor, stong enough to keep himself on a monthly schedule from 1977 until 2003, smart enought to draft Gerhard out of nowhere and to involve him in the project. He is a great publisher (not just for the consistency, but even by the numbers, since at least between the first and the second third, Cerebus really was a market success story)

My point is: Cerebus series is in the comic field something very similar to the 56 games hitting streak record in baseball: an achievement that was the product of the strong will of a strong man, with no real matches before or after (closest followers stand at least 10 games behind). Differently from the other records, that "are there to be broken", the 56 games hitting streak record is widely considered by baseball experts to be here to stay. So does Cerebus: it stands, unmatched and sometimes misunderstood, very alone and very far from everything else in the comic field. Cerebus is the 56 games record, and Dave Sim is Joe DiMaggio.

And after the baseball rave, let me spend a couple of words about this page. Every meeting between Cerebus and Jaka, in the first half of Cerebus, has been, for me, unforgettable (I remember how heartbreaking was their encounter during High Society, when she gives him back his sword). The relationship between them is very interesting: I mean, Cerebus is a selfish, greedy, violent, careless guy, but his feelings towards Jaka have always been incredibly pure. Whenever he has been rude with her, this happens basically because he wants protect himself, since he understands that his love for Jaka is the only way for the cruel world outside to really, deeply, deadly hurt "Cerebus" (looks like a warrior don't fear war, but will fear love). Still, during their meeting in issue 74 Cerebus is no less than the Pope, and anyway at the end of the issue he's ready to take off is most holy robe, to follow his beloved Jaka wherever she's going.

The lines in this page are very funny. Cerebus is at his best - which is, of course, everybody else's worst. He's out of his mind because Jaka just told him that she married Rick (and when, somewhere else in the same story, Jaka notices that he should not go crazy since he married too - with Sophia - he delivers the immortal line "Cerebus was drunk!"). Even the final silent panel is very funny. I've spent a considerable part of my life reading comics, books, listening to music, watching actors in movies and on stage, and I believe that nobody was able to write or play or use the silence as effectively as Dave Sim. With silence, he was better than John Cage, better than Samuel Beckett, better than Marcel Marceau: definetely the Greatest Of All Time - just like Ali with boxing gloves (talking about Dave Sim, any sport I touch, I have to mention the champions).

1 comment:

David Birdsong said...

Wow, that was good stuff. As a Cerebus / Dave Sim fan and a baseball nut I am in full appreciation mode on this entry.